Unsolicited Christian Dating Advice.

So a good male friend of mine, who is single, posted this on their Facebook:  “Thought on finding “the one”: every married person becomes like their spouse, so in looking for him/her, choose one you want to become like.”

I thought that was pretty good,  so I said ” Look for the one that you can fulfill your calling better with than without. 😉 The ideal mate list is mostly hooey to me… unless the LORD has revealed to you what you need, no one really understands what they need from a spouse until they have one, unless they receive revelation! Pray for revelation!!!”

And then I started thinking about it deeper, because this friend is one of the terribly marriageable people that seems to get looked over quite a bit, and I have quite a few male AND female friends that are unmarried who are unhappy with the unmarried bit (my friends who are happy with it are good to go).  I started to think about marriage and what I thought before or after I got married, and especially how “dating” and “courting” in Christian culture happens…

So here’s my unsolicited and very young wife advice for my Christian single, dating and engaged friends (I promise I’ll do marrieds later).

1. Never say to a girl (or boy, really) that you would like to find someone “like them”.  This is so baffling. Every single woman I know (EVERY SINGLE ONE, think about that)  has told me that at some point either a guy they were interested in, or one of their best friends of the opposite sex who were not ruled out in their heads as a potential spouse has told them this.  You may mean this to be complimentary, but the truth is it is so derogatory… because everyone hears the “except” in their head.  “I need to find someone like you…” and “Because you’re awesome” is what you are implying… but what they hear is “I need to find someone like you…

… except not fat”

… except maybe blonde”

… except you’re too honest and available so it’s no fun.”

Trust me on this people.  Especially if the person you are saying this to is a girl, because girls are trained by society and the way their brains work to analyze and break down crap like this to the tiniest molecule. No matter how intentioned that is, unless the phrase immediately after “I need to find someone like you…”  is “.. and then I realized you were right here…”  THEN YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY THAT.

2. Pay attention to how the person you are interested treats their pets, their family, people they don’t know, and people that don’t garner respect.

I was very privileged to know some truly amazing men, who set the bar high for what people could be.  A common pitfall I observed happened across a wide selection of people at every ministry I’ve ever been involved in.  It would be that the guy or girl would be an awesome teacher, worship leader, preacher or intercessor (though this happens less with intercessors) and during times of ministry would gravitate toward the exciting, popular, interesting, most desperate appearing people to hang out with or minister to or associate with.  This is human nature, but it’s so very important for people in ministry not to fall into this.

For instance, I have a very charismatic friend who is super obviously anointed and gifted.  He’s one of my favorite people on earth. I watched while every older guy in a 100 mile radius really vied to be this friend’s mentor and guide.  And yes, he needed one or many of these.  However, I have another friend who is not so charismatic,  very gifted and anointed, but in a less showy way.  He worked at the same ministry as me and my other friend, and was often frustrated at the lack of response from people he approached for mentoring, etc.  The guys in the ministry would go out, and forget to take this guy.  Finally, someone started to pay attention to him, and foster his gifts… and that person was a truly amazing individual.  It doesn’t mean that the people wanting to help the super charismatic guy were bad people or anything,  but it revealed something about the character of the person who took the time to get to know the less ostentatious young man and invest time and love.

It can be very telling.

One of the ways I knew my now husband was a little more than met the eye is because of how he treats his cats.  It seems silly maybe, but he believes his cats are part of his family, and he took the responsibility when he adopted him, and they have to be treated well.  He feeds them and cleans up after them and worries about them, and doesn’t torment them.  It showed me something about his character.

I think that families are difficult and in laws are an adventure… but if they did not have an abusive childhood, watch how someone interacts with their family… if possible before you date them.  Watch how they talk about their family.

And good grief… watch how they treat your mother.  It’s easy to be nice and get along… but does the person you took home to mom and dad treat them with respect and display boundaries?  And now bowing scraping respect, but as people they can talk to and trust.   At some point as a couple you are going to have to set boundaries, interact with each other’s parents in a conflict… do they have the character to develop those skills?  Because you don’t come born with them.  Because parents push every button.

Dave Barry once said “Someone who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person”.  And that’s a motto I kept pretty close to my chest while I was dating.

3.  This one is kind of hard to put into words. It’s really about getting over the flesh and that’s really hard when you’re single (well, or married or whatever).  There are easy people to love.  People who understand their personal potential, who speak up during testimony time, who share constantly about the wonderful things God is doing in their life. They put things in the positive, they have really well phrased ways of describing their feelings, they are attractive and lovely.  This does not make them bad or less worthy or anything… I want that to be really clear.

There are people who are not so much harder to love, because maybe they’re messier or seem boring.  They seem a little uncomfortable during testimony time.  They talk really frankly about where they’re at and what’s going on in their lives.  They’re a little quirky.  They don’t seem to have it all figured out.  PAY ATTENTION TO THESE PEOPLE. They are amazing.

I was, for a very long time, only looking at people in the first group, because I tended to be someone in the first group, and I thought that was who I was supposed to like.  (I’ll get into that weird “supposed to like” thing later).  I would hear the guys in that group talk about how they couldn’t wait to meet their future spouse who was also confident, outspoken, a great worship leader and “on top of all that she’ll be hot!”  That is how it was and that is what they deserved, it seemed.  I thought similar things, if I’m honest… I had  a list.

Ugh, the list.

On my list was that of COURSE I absolutely NEEDED someone who played an instrument, could sing and write worship music, led bible studies and maybe also painted.  Because those are things that I do and am called to do.

I dated those guys.  I argued with those guys.  I threw a lamp at one of their heads.  They said horrible things to me without meaning to and I treated them badly without realizing it.

My husband doesn’t play guitar, and sings mostly in the car.  He appreciates art but his is writing.  He will think long and hard during bible study and speak up when he really thinks he has something different to contribute or has a question to ask.  He has taught me that I can’t and shouldn’t take on everything, encouraged me without competing with me,  had my back, and generally been the best kind of balance I could ever ask for.  He says exactly what he means… there is no hunting for double meanings, you know where he stands.  I ignored guys like him for a long time.

3. For goodness sake, spend some time preparing.  And I am not talking about reading material, necessarily.  Although, if you’re a woman the “Created to be his Helpmeet” book by Debi Pearl is a book I can’t recommend enough (I don’t agree with everything in it, but the concepts are solid).

There are practical things that you should know… how to get along with a roommate (if you have never had a roommate, have one at least a year before getting married),  cooking and cleaning,  being respectful of someone else,  how to manage money,  how to make someone feel special,  how to be romantic and when.  How to disagree.  Tithing.

There are other things that help out a lot.  Volunteering… helping other people and doing something for the community that you don’t actually want to do.  And guess what?  The less people you tell about this the better.  It’s not about recognition, it’s about building your own character, and learning to care for someone when you don’t want to even look at them.

Working on your looks, being sexy, finding a fascinating hobby… meh.  Those aren’t bad things, but they’re not going to really equip you as much as learning and growing will.

4.  So after I’ve spent a thousand words saying “look for this, do this”  my best advice is HAVE COMPASSION.  It’s so hard to meet someone, and once you’ve met someone we’re trained not just by tv and movies but by the church to look for this perfect package, instead of a person.

You should be able to look for and be a person of the Spirit and a person of character.  You should look for those things.  But people are in progress… you’re looking for someone to share your life journey with and get in your corner.  You are looking for someone who shares your values and can laugh.

Laughing is important.

You need someone who can show you where you lack and whom you can take rebuke from. You don’t need someone who never makes mistakes, you need someone who can be shown their mistakes and acknowledge them, repent and grow.

5. Put down the stupid ungodly list.

Seriously, throw that crap away.

I think that list was popularized by Elizabeth Elliot, a woman who has some good things to say, and has some destructive things to say.  One of the destructive things is to make a list of your ideal spouse and marry the person who fits the most or all of those things.

This is really an arrogant thing, thinking that you know what characteristics are best for you.

If you are a Christian, you serve a Divine God who knows you have been, who you are, and all the yous you have the potential to be.  Pray for revelation, not just of some list, but just to see those around you with His perspective.

I know that I didn’t find anyone near what I needed until I put down the stupid list and started looking for the Fruit of the Spirit.  Well, that’s a little untrue.  I got hit over the head with the fact that the guy in my list doesn’t really reflect the fruits of the spirit, and surprised by the person who did.

What if you did this list instead… make a list of the married couples you know and pray for them.  Make a list of the single people you know and pray for them.  This praying for your future husband thing is great, don’t stop it, but I remember how self focused that made me sometimes.

Anyway, that’s just a few observations… take anything useful from it and throw the rest away.  To my single, dating, engaged and married friends… it’s a difficult world, and I pray for all of you all the time.

Much love,



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. isensmith
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 22:58:32

    Hey Rach, it’s Ren. I came to your site wanting to find your number or email so i could bounce an idea off you about the site but got distracted by this article. Firstly i have to say your writing is just superb, expressive and lovely to read. Also, i just felt like telling you that, though i have long since left my religion behind, i still understand that part of my brain and in the light of the scriptural teaching that i can well still remember, your words here are very sound and insightful. i cherish the ability to analyse values and motivations that i learned from growing up in the church, it taught me a lot about discerning what’s best from complicated moral situations. You’ve put a lot of wisdom here, and even though i’ve found my special someone i really got a lot out of reading it.
    ps, email me or summat so we can chat about the fangirl site :]


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